Tuesday, August 29, 2006

George Carlin was right: getting a dog is purchasing a small tragedy

I am sitting bleary-eyed in front of my computer at 3:30 in the morning because Buster has no clean blankets to go in his kennel. The first set is in the wash, where I wisely threw them at 1:00 a.m., the first time I got up to clean out the poopy mess. The second set is still in the kennel, which I removed from the bedroom and placed in the laundry room after it became apparent shortly before 3:00 that he had once again befouled the inside of it with watery diarrhea, a mere 2 hours after I'd cleaned the whole thing out. The blankets in the washer are waiting for a load of clothes to dry before they can be dried themselves; hence the poopy blankets waiting in the kennel.

This all started Saturday morning, when Buster dropped a soft poop in his kennel before I took him out for his morning walk. We figured he'd eaten something bad and headed to Bend for my father's birthday; our poor dog-sitter spent the whole night dealing with exactly the situation I now face. Buster had a little bit of diarrhea when we got home Sunday afternoon, but it seemed to have cleared up-- yesterday morning he took a dump of normal consistency and we hoped fervently that we had avoided having to take him to the vet. (This happened a few months ago and the dog nearly died of dehydration thanks to a nasty intestinal infection. Vet bill: about $800.) But now it's back.

Contrary to how it might seem, I am not writing about this because I enjoy talking about shit. The fact is, I am contemplating this dog's mortality and feeling very, very guilty for doing so. His repeated illnesses coupled with the significant cost of regular maintenance mean that one more big health issue could leave us in the unfortunate position of choosing between our dog's life and our own financial security.

Any animal-lover is appalled to hear that we are seriously contemplating having our dog put down for financial reasons. It sounds selfish, doesn't it? Consider this: Buster has Addison's disease, an adrenal disorder that necessitates monthly vet visits for a hormone injection and blood work to monitor his electrolyte levels. This routine maintenance costs $200-$400 every month. When Buster was diagnosed, we discussed our options with his vet, who told us simply, "If he gets this shot that costs $80 every month, he will be fine." He neglected to mention the bloodwork he would perform at each visit, the urinalysis, the bladder ultrasound if he couldn't get the dog to pee-- all of this stuff is expensive. The best-case scenario each month costs $200, and we can count on an additional $200 if Buster is uncooperative or his levels are off.

It has been about a year and a half since Buster was diagnosed, and his care has cost us almost $7,000 since then. We chose to save him when he was in crisis, but we feel the vet did not paint us an accurate picture when he described the cost of the monthly care Buster's disease would require. He told us only about the injection, which would have cost under $100, and instead we are facing bills each month anywhere from twice to five times the amount we expected to be paying.

To put it simply, we cannot afford this dog anymore.

Having chosen to save him when his untreated disease represented an imminent threat to his life, we are now in the regrettable position of having to think about putting down a dog who, when he gets his shot, seems completely healthy. Since he was diagnosed and began receiving treatment, he is happier and livelier than he's ever been. I love this dog dearly, and it hurts me unspeakably to say this, but I think if we had had an accurate idea of how much it was going to cost just in regular maintenance (not counting the big crisis episodes, whose combined total is around $3,000), we would have chosen to have him put down back when he was so gravely ill.

Buster's care has wiped out any savings we've managed to accrue. His first crisis, the one that resulted in his Addison's diagnosis, cost us all of the money we were given as wedding gifts. It wouldn't be unfair to say that his health problems are the reason we couldn't afford to go on a honeymoon, and a significant reason why we haven't bought a house yet. We love him, but where do we draw the line?

It is indescribably painful to have to put a monetary value on the life of a dog who is a member of our family. We feel betrayed by a vet who seems to be more a salesman than an honest provider of veterinary care, and we just don't know what to do.

How much is too much to pay for a pet you love?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Overheard out my window

Mom: (irritated) You guys knock it off!

Daughter: (wild giggling)

Son: Mom! She's trying to lick my butt!

Daughter: (screaming with laughter)

Mom: That's enough!

Man, little kids are so freaking gross.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

blogger's block

I'm not sure why I'm having such trouble coming up with something to post; it's not as if nothing's happened to me in the past week. I turned 25 last Thursday. My brother came to visit. I ate a lot of Taco Bell and other various junk food items. Last night I got drunk while writing a Political Science paper. The paper started out good but... sort of went downhill. Needless to say, I'm not anticipating particularly good marks on that piece of scholarship. Mark makes really tasty strawberry coladas. I asked him if he was trying to get me drunk and he said, "Yes. So I can take advantage of you," and then we played video games until midnight, after which we crawled into bed fell promptly asleep. So he was lying. Unless by "take advantage of you" he meant "get you to play video games until midnight and then fall asleep with me." Which sort of turns me on for some reason.